What is Medical Negligence?
Medical negligence or clinical negligence as it is being referred to in more recent times is when a person receives treatment or care from a healthcare professional which can include but is not exclusive to; nurse, carer, doctor pharmacist and such care has fallen below the standard expected. If this care or service provided has in some way caused the person to experience ill health as a direct result then they may be able to pursue a claim for medical negligence.
What evidence is needed when pursuing a claim for medical negligence?
There are two main areas within the law that must be proven in order for a person to be able to pursue a compensation claim for medical negligence;
In order for a person to pursue a claim for medical negligence it is not enough for the treatment just to be of a poor standard it must have in some way caused them harm or further ill health. It seems unfair that a person should not be made liable for delivering a health service that is below what is expected of them. When deciding to choose a career within the health service people are made very aware of the Code of Conduct that should always be abided by.
Code of Conduct is there to ensure that all patients feel safe and secure and that they receive a high quality health service. It goes further as it provides rules and safety measures for patients to compare their treatment with and offer patients the opportunity to challenge those they feel have not provided such a service.
Any medical negligence case that is being pursues must show that there is strong liability in as much as a health care professional has breached their Care of Duty. It must be proven that another healthcare professional of the same ability given similar circumstances would not have acted in the same negligent way.
How long has a person got to pursue a claim for Medical Negligence?
There are quite strict rules regarding time limits concerning compensation claims and that is most cases have to be filed within three years of the incident happening. It is important to state that there are exceptions to the rule which are listed below but not inclusive to as a judge also has the right to allow cases to be heard at his or her discretion;
If a person is under the age of 18 at the time of the medical negligence they have three years to pursue a compensation claim once they turn the age of 18. Minors who experience medical negligence have until their 21st birthday to bring a medical negligence claim to court.
Those that have mental health problems have three years to pursue a medical negligence compensation claim once they have been discharged from any mental health care they have been receiving.
If a person who is suffering from a mental health issue is unlikely to make a full recovery then there is no time limit, they have a life time to pursue a claim for medical negligence.
Problems that may arise from receiving poor health treatment may not always be noticeable straight away they may take time to surface and for this reason there is an additional exception to the rule allowing victims three years from the date of knowledge to pursue a claim.
Can Medical Negligence only happen at hospitals?
Medical negligence can take place in many different areas, it is not restricted to medical environments although a health service must be being provided at the time. In short medical negligence or clinical negligence can take place almost anywhere a health care professional is providing a service including but not exclusive to; a patience’s home if a health care worker is providing a home visit, doctors surgery, hospital, dentist, chiropodist, care home, spa, private health clinics.
How long do Medical Negligence claim cases take?
A very important question but also quite a difficult question to answer. When people want to pursue a claim for medical negligence it is very often asked how long does a medical negligence compensation claim take to conclude but there is no straight forward answer as each claim is different to the next although some might appear similar the surrounding circumstances that lead up to the incident and the fallout may be quite different.
If a legal representative is pushed for an answer they would say a medical negligence case would probably last about two years, those being the most straight forward of cases. Cases that are complex or that experience delays can last much longer especially in cases where no liability has been accepted.
How are Medical Negligence cases funded?
Here we fund 99 per cent of all our medical negligence cases under a No Win No Fee agreement or a conditional agreement as they are more commonly known. We have a high success rate due to the knowledge and expertise of all our expert solicitors. Our legal team have decades of experience dealing with all different types of medical negligence cases and we have an expert team who are dedicated to dealing with our most complex cases. No Win No Fee agreements have changed slightly since they were originally introduced.
Changes took place to No Win No Fee agreements in April 2013 after much persistence from insurance companies regarding the huge sums of money being paid out in compensation claims, before such changes took place a No Win No Fee meant a claimant would paying nothing in legal fee regardless if the claim was successful or not. After the changes claimants now have to pay their legal team their success fee of up to 25 per cent of the compensation they are awarded.
What are the different types of Medical Negligence?
There are many different types of Medical Negligence cases and clinical negligence cases as it is such a broad term, medical neglect can happen as a result of any medical or health care that is being provided which is of a poor and substandard level. The most common are listed below;
Hospital Negligence – when a service or treatment that is being provided by a hospital as an outpatient or an admitted patient is not conducted correctly and as a result causes further ill health then the hospital is liable for hospital negligence.
Birth Injury – this is when the correct and proper procedures are not followed during the birth of a child and as a consequence the mother or child or both are affected as a result. Birth injury negligence can have devastating effects on all concerned and can be prevented by proper due care and attention being provided at all times.
Surgery Negligence – this can take place in numerous different ways for example a surgery can be performed on the wrong part of the body, wrong limbs can be amputated, surgical instruments can be retained inside a patient’s body all of which are unthinkable and have catastrophic consequences for the patient.
Dental Negligence – this can arise when a dentist extracts the wrong tooth from a patient, or gum disease or infection goes undetected, or just general poor dentistry which has a knock on effect on a patients teeth and gum area.
GP Negligence – GP’s are a person’s first point of call when they are not feeling well or have a health complaint and are there to help diagnose a person’s ailment and treat it or refer them to a physician who can. If the GP fails to diagnose an illness correctly or provides the incorrect course of treatment or does not refer the patient promptly and appropriately and the patient worsens then they are committing GP negligence.
Care Home Negligence – there are more and more cases being reported concerning poor treatment being provided in care homes. Those that are occupants of old people’s homes or care homes are receiving poor in adequate treatment often with illnesses and falls going unnoticed and not reported. People in care homes are often vulnerable and need caring for but instead are being neglected and handled incorrectly.
How much compensation is awarded in Medical Negligence cases i.e. Medical Negligence pay-outs?
There is no straight forward or easy way to answer this question as there are many different types of medical negligence cases all which are unique as the circumstance surrounding the medical neglect are different to each case, as is the after math of the negligence. We recommend that the case be looked at by one of our professional solicitors who specialise in that area of medical negligence and then a medical expert before a precise amount is given as there is no way of giving an accurate amount in the initial stages of any case. Medical negligence compensation pay-outs are calculated using two specific areas;
Special Damages – these cover out of pocket expenses so to speak. The idea of compensation is to put a person back to their original position or as close to before their non fault accident that’s why the court awards special damages so that any expenses the victim of the negligence has incurred can be recuperated this way. The courts will calculate the special damages from the date the incident took place taking in to account any expenses that may be incurred in the future. Special damages will cover medical costs, any loss of earnings, change or adaptation of accommodation, any additional care needed, travel and parking expenses, specialist treatment and equipment and any other services or equipment that is needed to accommodate the victim.
General Damages – the court awards these damages for the pain and suffering that the victim of the medical negligence has suffered. Depending on the type and severity of the injury will have a huge bearing on the amount of compensation that is awarded, the more the victim has suffered the more the court will award in general damages. The court will also take in to account how their life has been altered due to the negligence and how if any it will be continue to be affected all which will be included in the amount that is awarded for general damages. In order for the court to give a precise amount of compensation to cover the general damages they will seek professional medical advice, a physician who is fully competent in assessing the damage that has been done to a person’s physical and mental health as a direct consequence of the medical neglect.
Why choose a Medical Negligence Solicitor?
Medical negligence is a complex and challenging subject, it’s a combination of two complicated entities medicine and law. Although it is possible for a person to represent themselves when pursuing a case for medical negligence many professionals would strongly advise against it especially if the person is not familiar with the subject as it is easy to get lost in such a convoluted subject matter. Even to those that are professionals in the area of medical negligence, complex and trying cases can be ambitious to say the least.
Medical negligence cases can also be quite lengthy taking a considerable amount of man power in gathering all the relevant information, statements and piecing together the whole case that is why we are here to help.
By appointing us as your legal representative we will take away all the stress, anxiety and worry you may be feeling when pursing a medical negligence case. Once we have taken you statement we need little input from yourself as we take care of everything else, keeping you updated on any new gatherings or information we discover.
Is Medical Negligence increasing?
The most recent published statistics concerning medical negligence would strongly suggest that medical negligence is in fact increasing. Shocking figures published by the BBC in July of this year have revealed that a huge 1.1 billion pounds was paid to the solicitors and patients of those who have been affected by medical negligence. Even more astounding the bill to cover medical negligence costs and fallouts is set to rise even further during 2015/2016 to a massive 1.4 billion.
It has been clearly stated that measures and procedures need to be put into place to not only reduce the amount of medical neglect but to also learn from mistakes of the past. People need a health system that they can trust in, that they feel safe approaching in times of ill health and injury. No one should feel apprehensive and worry that the medical treatment they receive may be of a poor standard and cause them more problems. It is being claimed that medical negligence is putting increase pressure on health services but should not the argument be that such poor services is failing people.
Will a patient’s treatment be affected when claiming Medical Negligence?
In any incidents of medical negligence where a patient has received poor treatment and care resulting in them suffering further ill health as a direct consequence can rest assure that they will not face any hostility if more treatment or continued treatment is required. The victim of medical negligence is entirely blameless no person would ever want to be put in such a situation and therefore should not face any discrimination as a consequence.
Most people pursue a medical negligence case as they have no other choose, it is a way of being provided with ways and means of getting themselves in a position that they were in before the incident took place. For some who are severely effected by the medical malpractice, whom are subjected to life changing circumstances compensation along with any special requirements that are covered through compensation are needed for them to continue with a comfortable life.
When is the organisation aware that a Medical Negligence claim is being pursued?
The doctor, hospital or other health organisation will be made aware that they are being sued when a clients medical records are requested, they may even become conscience that a case for medical negligence may be pursued if the patient in question has already put in a complaint. Some law firms require any potential clients to first make a complaint to the organisation in question to see what kind of response is given. It allows the law firm to gather whether the organisation in question is likely or even does admit responsibility. The type of response that is given can give a large indication of how to manage the case. Regardless of whether the organisation admits responsibility or not you can still pursue a claim for medical negligence as long as your case warrants good merits.
Is it better to pursue a claim for Medical Negligence sooner rather than later?
Deciding whether to pursue a claim for medical negligence may be the toughest part but once a decision has been made if that decision is to move forward and make a compensation claim much of it will be handle by the law firm you appoint to represent you. If deciding to make a claim it is always advised to do so as soon as possible, while information regarding the medical neglect is still fresh not only within your own mind but those that may need to be called as witnesses.
Over time important information may be forgotten, information that may be the piece to having a successful outcome and receiving justice for the negligence that has taken place. Medical records over time may get lost and are usually the key evidence needed in any medical negligence case, if the claim is brought early they are likely to be easy to locate and used in the case. Furthermore people who were present at the time of the incident may need to be called as witnesses but as some people tend to move around it may be difficult to contact them if a long period of time is left between the incident and pursuing a claim.
It is important to remember that when making a claim for medical negligence it is better to do so sooner rather than later not just because of the three year time limit but so all information is reachable and valid.
What information is needed when pursuing a claim for Medical Negligence?
The first piece of information a medical negligence law firm will need even before they agree to take a case on is a statement from the victim of the negligence or a close friend or relative if they cannot do so themselves. This allows the lawyer to look in to the case initially so that they can evaluate the case and see if medical negligence has taken place. It s important for the solicitor to investigate whether the case is likely to have a successful outcome before any paper work is signed especially if the case is being pursues under a No Win No Fee as they will not have any costs paid if the case is lost. The statement will require detailed information of events that may have led up to the medical neglect and information regarding the actual medical negligence itself. This allows the lawyer to derive a full picture before they may even seek medical advice so that they can decide whether negligence actually took place.
If the law firm agrees to take the case on they will require the client’s medical records and these will be vital in proving the negligence as they will hopefully offer written confirmation. The solicitor who is in charge of your case may want not only your files to be viewed by a medical expert but also yourself so that you can be examined and an expert opinion on your case can be produced. The medical expert’s report is vital in proving the medical negligence if they do not believe medical neglect has taken place your case will not stand up in court.
It is also important for the law firm who is in charge of your case to obtain any statements from any witnesses that were present at the time of the negligence or to the lead up of the negligence as it will help to build a bigger picture of the treatment and service that was provided. Also as witnesses are usually not biased there statement is independent and valid when it comes to evidence. Witness’s statements can weigh heavy in a medical negligence case.
Initial investigations such as obtaining medical records, any diagnostics test results, medical examination reports and witness statements can be very timing consuming but make up the bulk of the information required in a medical negligence case and are very vital to the whole case.
Do all Medical Negligence cases go to court?
A lot of people are deterred from making a medical negligence claim due to the fear and anxiety that they may have to go to court. Only a small amount of cases are actually heard in court it’s usually those of a complex nature or when liability cannot be reached, most cases are finalised outside court when both sides can come to an arrangement and when liability has been established. If the case does go to court we are here for you every step of the way, we will ensure that you are well prepared and guided through the whole process.
Who is sued in a Medical Negligence compensation case?
Who a victim of medical negligence will sue largely depends on where the negligence took place. If a person receives inadequate treatment at a NHS led hospital and as a consequence suffers ill effects as a direct consequence they will sue the NHS Trust that is responsible for the negligence rather than the actual health care professional who is to blame for the medical neglect.
However if a patient is a victim of medical negligence due to the poor treatment they received from their GP or private clinic they will sue the actual health care professional rather than the whole practice or clinic. It is important to remember that health care professionals such as GP’s will have insurance that will cover for incidents of medical negligence and therefore will not have to pay for such damages out of their own pocket. The same rule applies to dentist’s who are responsible for committing medical negligence it will be themselves who will be sued rather than the dentist practice but as mentioned before they have insurance that will cover such incidents. Each case is different to the next and there are exceptions to what is mentioned above as not all cases are straight forward many cases of medical negligence are complex and it may be difficult to determine who to sue in the initial stages.
What is the Medical Negligence claims process?
The process of pursuing a claim for medical negligence has different stages the first stage being the initial investigations which will cover gaining vital information regarding your case. In the initial investigations the solicitor in which you have appointed to represent your case will ask you for a full statement and who you think is responsible for the negligence in which you have been subjected to. The solicitor will also want to obtain any other witness statements from witnesses that were present at the time of the negligent care. The solicitor will want to obtain any medical records for the victim and also independent medical expert opinions for the person in question so that it could be used to back up the claims made. The medical report will hopefully determine that there has been a breach of duty, that the medical professional has not followed the correct procedures and has provided a service that is below the standard that is expected. Sometimes one professional medical report is only needed to provide sufficient evidence to prove a breach of duty but on most occasions more than one is needed.
The next stage of the medical negligence compensation process is the preparation of your case and evaluating the merits of your claim. Your solicitor will take in to consideration the opinions of the medical experts to evaluate how badly you have and may go on to suffer as a direct consequence of the negligence. They will look at the extent of the injury or illness that has been caused through medical neglect and how it has and may continue to affect your life.
At this point the solicitor may be looking at how much you are likely to receive in terms of compensation for the negligence you have suffered, they will be taking in to consideration both general damages i.e. pain and suffering that has been caused and also special damages i.e. the financial losses your may have incurred and may go onto incur in the future. General damages are put in place to compensate the victim of medical negligence in terms of funds awarded to cover the amount of pain and suffering a person has endured as a direct consequence of the poor standard of service and care provided. Technically the more suffering a person has had to go through will determine how much compensation they will receive. Special damages cover the financial aspect of the compensation claim in terms of out of pockets expenses also any medical care, equipment, accommodation adaptation, medication etc. that is needed.
The final stage of the medical negligence compensation process is the actual issuing of proceedings and pursuing the case. The defendant in the case will receive notice of the case and the allegations against them. The defendant will be informed of the case that is being pursed and any evidence that backs up the claimant’s case, the defendant will then have a period of four months to investigate the case themselves and respond to the allegations. When the defendant responds they will state whether or not they accept liability. It is important to say that they can accept partial responsibility if they believe the claimant had some part to play in the negligence caused. At this stage both sides may be able to sort out an agreement so that the case does not have to go to court if this is not possible Court Proceedings will be issued.
What will happen to the person(s) responsible for the negligence?
This question is slightly difficult to answer as each case is different and depends on who is being sued and the type of negligence. It can also depend on the nature and severity of the negligence. When a person pursues a claim for medical negligence it is completely separate to any action that is taken by the hospital or clinic. The consequences if any the health care professional faces is entirely up to the organisation they work for unless they have gone so far as to break any laws and are facing criminal charges. If the negligence is considered mild or moderate then it is unlikely that the person responsible for the medical neglect will stand to face any repercussions. If the negligence is of a severe nature then the hospital, GP’s surgery, clinic etc. may launch their own investigation and act on the findings.
It is unlikely that a doctor or health care professional would be dismissed especially if the negligence was of a mild nature and they have good character however nothing is set in stone and each case is different to the next so it is difficult to say. If the negligence in question is severe and an investigation is launched and finds that the medical professional is in fact breach of their duty then at that point they are likely to face consequences.
Do those pursuing a Medical Negligence case pay upfront costs?
Depending on the type of agreement will depend on the costs involved. As we offer 99 percent of all our clients a No Win No Fee agreement we do not need any upfront costs. If the case does not succeed we do not ask for any moneys from our client it is only if the claimant has a successful outcome that we take up to 25 percent but no more of the compensation awarded to cover certain fees.